Iga Świątek sheds light on harsh reality of being a Grand Slam champion

Iga Świątek

Iga Świątek is one of many tennis stars who have achieved Grand Slam champion status at a young age.

At just 19, the Polish international stormed to victory at the 2020 French Open, beating the likes of Simona Halep before toppling USA’s Sofia Kenin in the final. 

Świątek is part of a new era of up and coming trailblazers who are taking the court by storm, but the 20-year-old has shed light on the enormous pressure that comes with being a young champion.

In her column for BBC Sport, the world number 41 discussed her maiden Grand Slam triumph and the harsh wake up call that came in the aftermath.

“After Roland Garros, I felt my whole world had turned upside down. The first few months were really hard in balancing my tennis work and off-court responsibilities.

“After winning a Grand Slam you might think ‘I can now be happy for the rest of my life’ but it is totally the opposite to that. I wasn’t aware it would be like that.

“I expected a lot from myself and wanted to show people that I could play like that all of the time. It was kind of impossible.

“So I needed some time to chill out a little bit. I had to just remember ‘I’m 20 and still have lots of time to develop and to learn.'”

Iga Świątek

Indeed, the spotlight cast on young Grand Slam winners does wonders for their profile as an athlete, but can also come with extreme amounts of pressure and hefty criticism when results dip.

Emma Raducanu is a recent example of how expectations can become unrealistic for young players still working on polishing their performances. 

The British number one recently released an advert with Nike to hit back at claims that she had become distracted by her new-found fame and that she was just a one-hit wonder after triumphing at the US Open last year.

In 2021, Świątek’s form ebbed and flowed, seeing her reach the quarter-final of the French Open, but then knocked out of several WTA events in the early stages. Her last match was a defeat to world number one Ashleigh Barty in the semi-final of the Adelaide International 1.

Iga Świątek

Świątek’s best record at the Australian Open saw her reach the fourth round in both 2020 and 2021. This year, she will be hoping to better this record.

“Winning a Grand Slam is great but I think at my age it interrupted the peaceful process of growing up and developing my game,” the Pole explained.

“Suddenly we had to rush to get to the same level, mentally and tennis-wise, to where my expectations were.”

Świątek admitted she was “less confident” heading into last year’s Australian Open than she is now, as she felt the pressure to prove herself off the back of her success at Roland Garros. 

Iga Świątek

“I need to keep my expectations level. This year I think it will be easier for me to do that because I understand the whole process better.

“Last year, I won the Adelaide title after the Australian Open and then another title in Rome. I ended the season in the world’s top 10 and qualified for the WTA Finals.

“It really showed me that I belonged at the top of the WTA and hopefully I am going to stay there for a longer time to come.”

Świątek will face Britain’s Harriet Dart tomorrow in the first round of the Australian Open. 


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